The first war of the newly independent Principality of Wales was also the final stage in the reunification of Welsh territory. As part of the Treaty of London, the English Crown retained control over St Davids, South Pembrokeshire, Ystrad Towy and Kidwelly (in addition to several castles throughout Wales). Following Maredudd's coronation as Prince of Wales in Bangor Cathedral he had dreamed of retaking these southern lands from England.
The Early War
The war began in 1429, with Maredudd sending out the summons for troops. Assembling at Aberteifi (Cardigan) Maredudd sent ahead scouts to find out the location of the Duke of Suffolk's troops. These scouts returned with encouraging news, the Duke was far away to the south at Carmarthen Castle. With this news, Maredudd on the 20th July 1429 marched along the coast from Aberteifi. However, the English had long had wind of the Prince's moves and De La Pole (who was himself descended from Owen de la Pole Marcher Lord of Powys and a member of the House of Mathrafal), had in fact marshaled an army at Penfro (Pembroke). Marching north, he crossed into Welsh territory and met the Princes' army at Newport on the 22nd July 1429. Surprised and initially outnumbered, Maredudd fought a pitched battle with the Duke, pinning his hopes on the experienced troops he had under his command. De La Pole however proved to be the better General. His cavalry outflanked the Welsh army and descended onto the rear of Maredudd's troops. Panic ensued in the Welsh ranks with Maredudd doing well to both retain his life and his army as the signal to retreat was sounded. Leaving the Duke in control of the field, the Welsh Prince retreated to the relative safety of Castell Aberteifi.
Realising that the English possessed greater firepower and in De La Pole a General more than equal to the job of keeping Maredudd out, the Welsh Prince reverted to tried and tested Welsh tactics, guerrilla warfare. From Castell Aberteifi, the Prince commanded his forces, sending raiding parties down the Teifi Valley and over the Preselli's to launch into English controlled territory, he also sent troops raiding down the north coast, biting at the English forts between Fishguard and St Davids.
The Duke of Suffolk was at a loss to contain such actions. Short of invading Wales and attacking Maredudd at Aberteifi (which he had been commanded not to do) he could only try to pin down the raiders and whittle their numbers down. Such actions though are difficult, with Mareudd attempting the mosquito attacks, little and often, sapping the English morale and strength. With the closing of the war season, Maredudd had to disband his army, returning them to their lands. Suffolk was less restrained. With his forces still under arms, he launched raids back into Dyfed (the portion of Pembrokeshire in Welsh hands), though the weather prevented many attacks, the English initiative took the wind from Maredudd's sails.
With the winter closing out Suffolk, 1429 ended much as it began. Maredudd brooded over the Afon Teifi, while Suffolk made plans in Castell Penfro. With the opening of spring 1430, Maredudd began calling up the feudal levies to the Welsh Colours. While these troops began to arrive at Aberteifi, Suffolk too began gathering his troops for the march northwards. Word had reached the Duke that an attack on Aberteifi would be ignored by London. Marching as soon as the weather allowed the English Duke was soon on Maredudd's door. The Battle of Aberteifi helped shape the course of the war. Sitting within the Castle walls, aided by the river, Maredudd was able to resist the English artillery. Marching his army inland, Suffolk crossed the Tefi and marched southwards towards the town. On May 7th 1430, the Battle of St Mary's (or the Battle of Aberteifi) occurred. Pitched battle was a precarious option, but with the river again helping both sides, it took the late introduction of a mixed cavalry and archer attack by the Welsh to turn and then rout the English army. Fleeing inland, the English army scattered, though Maredudd was too cautious to pursue, a failure which lengthened the war.
With Maredudd still aware that English attention was focused on France, he was still too cautious to move too aggressively, though with the summer progressing he was finally convinced to move his army southwards towards Penfro.
On the 1st September, the third battle of the war occurred. The Battle of Penfro was fought between Maredudd and the Steward of the Castle, Sir John Winters. Lacking the heavy artillery needed to put Penfro under siege, Winter ought to have been safe, however, with Maredudd assembling his army almost daily in a taunting measure the English knight finally succumbed to honour and took the field. The battle lasted for four hours, and finally at the end of a hard fought battle (in which the majority of the casualties on both side were suffered) Maredudd held Castell Penfro in his hands. With autumn closing in, again the troops demanded to be released to take in the harvest and so ended another war season, though this time with a sign of advance.
1431 opened with Maredudd making plans for the vital conquest of St David's. The spiritual heart of Wales, the Archbishopric solidly Welsh following the Treaty of London, Maredudd needed its conquest to legitimise his war. With spring barely open, Suffolk made his one last throw of the dice. Marshaling the last English army in the area until the 1720's, he advanced to Hendy Gwynn (Whitland), with Maredudd marching to meet him there. On March 27th, the two armies met, with Maredudd opting for a pitched battle to end the war quickly. Suffolk arrayed his forces with his cavalry on his left wing. Archer attacks from both sides peppered the ground with arrows but little else. An English cavalry charge became bogged down, and sensing a chance, Maredudd released his smaller cavalry wing to attack the English right. The Welsh cavalry successfully avoided the boggy area which had foiled the English and quickly created havoc on the English flank. Infantry advancing, Suffolk fled the field, with his army quickly surrendering to Maredudd. With the last English army in the area removed, Maredudd marched at the head of his small force towards the town of St Davids. Marching proudly into the Cathedral grounds on the 3rd April 1431, Maredudd now controlled St Davids and southern Pembrokeshire, with forces from Gwyr and Morgannwg taking the English enclaves of Ystrad Towy and Kidwelly in the spring of 1431.
Coronation and the Treaty of St Davids
WIth his control over his objective secure and with England suffering under a Regency for the infant Henry VI as well as contesting with France in the Hundred Years War Maredudd felt secure enough to declare himself "Maredudd, By the Grace of God, king of the Britons, Prince of Powys, Great Lord of Gwynedd, Deheubarth, Glamorgan and the March, Lord of Sycharth, Harlech & Snowden".
Hurried negotiations with the English followed, with the Duke of Gloucester (Head of the Regency Council) also holding the title of Earl of Pembroke, something which Maredudd now held. Humphrey (Gloucester) sent diplomats to St Davids in order to hammer out a peace agreement with Maredudd. The new treaty was aided by the fact that the French had already agreed to a new treaty with Maredudd, recognising his new title. Although there was English face to save, the territories lost held few Englishmen and little strategic advantage to the English Crown. Thus Maredudd was able to hold onto these gains and secure recognition of his new title for the continued payments to the English Exchequer and the re-submitting of his feudal oath to Henry VI.
Maredudd considered these a small price to pay to be the first Welsh monarch since the 1050's to rule effectively the entire realm of Wales and duly signed the treaty, later ratified by both Westminster and Machynlleth Parliaments. The treaty detailed the new relationship between Maredudd and the English state. The treaty re-affirmed Welsh control of all territories up to the River Severn, and now included the conquered territories of Ystrad Towy and Kidwelly in addition to the conquest of Pembrokeshire. The treaty also included the formal handing over of the fortress' of Carmarthen, Kidwelly and Ludlow, although as a result of the war Carmarthen and Kidwelly were already in Welsh hands. The treaty also reaffirmed that the Marchia Salopia was beyond both kingdoms, an important act for the next round of Mareduddian politics.